How to Tell Your Family and Friends You Eloped

DJ Kaiser and Tom Saggio didn’t necessarily plan to marry last September — it just happened. The couple had bought a house together in St. Louis that July and decided that marriage should be the next step, despite the absence of proposals or the exchange of rings. Rather than attempt to wrangle family together during a pandemic, Dr. Kaiser, 47, an associate dean at Webster University, and Mr. Saggio, 51, a health service administrator at St. Clair County Jail in Belleville, Ill., took a road trip to Tulsa, Okla., and eloped in the lobby at their downtown hotel.

After calling their parents and other family members to share the news, the couple made an announcement on Facebook. The next weekend they hosted an already scheduled, socially distanced housewarming party as a de facto reception. They wouldn’t have done it any other way.

“As a couple, you need to think about yourselves and what you want to do and how you want to celebrate,” Dr. Kaiser said. “But also recognize that there are people who want to share that with you one way or another.”

Over the last year, elopement has emerged as the ceremony of choice for many pandemic couples, because of event capacity restrictions and other logistical hurdles.

Even before the pandemic, though, elopements were already on the rise, as couples traded lavish affairs, often with large price tags, for more affordable, intimate ceremonies. Since 2019, the Boise, Idaho-based elopement planning service Simply Eloped has seen a 95 percent jump in bookings, according to Matt Dalley, the chief executive.

Of course, not all family members may agree with a couple’s decision to elope. Here’s how to tell them and the rest of your network that you have discreetly tied the knot.

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Inform V.I.P.’s First

Resist the urge to immediately flock to social media post-elopement. Instead, couples should cull together a list of the most important people in their lives, including relatives and chosen family, and share the news with them individually — ideally, in person and as soon as possible.

To help ease into the conversation, Paulette Sherman, a psychologist and the author of “Dating From The Inside Out,” recommends reinforcing your love for the person by saying, “Before I tell you this, I want you to know you’re super important to me.”

Once your innermost circle has heard the news, you can send a marriage announcement, either digitally or via snail mail, to your wider network using photography from the elopement. Then, spread the word on social media if desired.

Explain Your Reasoning

Expect that family might ask why you chose to elope, especially if the decision seemed out of character. Whether motivated by pandemic safety or the realization that a big ceremony no longer suits your tastes, clearly and calmly express why you went the route of elopement. Explain the context of your elopement — the limits on gathering, budgetary concerns, or not wanting to delay starting a family — to put the decision into perspective.

“Be proud of your decision and share it proudly,” said Lizzie Post, a president of the Emily Post Institute and an author of “Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette” (sixth edition). “I think that can have a really good impact on the people around you.”

Be sure to underscore the fact that this was a decision made by both partners to avoid making your spouse the family scapegoat. “When something goes astray, the person who’s new gets blamed,” Dr. Sherman said.

But be Prepared for Fallout

Weddings can cause familial turmoil under normal circumstances. But in the event of an elopement, those left out from the event may feel slighted. Instead of apologizing for eloping, acknowledge the hurt your relative is experiencing, Dr. Sherman said. Have compassion for your loved ones and give them the time and space to sort through their emotions, however they react.

“At the end of the day, if that family member is really brooding and upset, the couple has to relinquish the need to make them feel better,” said Sojourner Auguste, a New York City-based wedding planner. “If they’re spending so much energy on trying to make that person feel better, they’re missing out on being a newlywed.”

Get Everyone Involved

For Dr. Kaiser and Mr. Saggio, a belated housewarming-wedding party helped fulfill the need for celebration without compromising their vision for an intimate ceremony. A small backyard soiree or even a larger reception marking the couple’s one-year anniversary can serve as the perfect debut for the newly betrothed. “Bring some champagne,” Ms. Auguste said. “It’s all about making the announcement special and thoughtful.”

Couples can ask for input from loved ones when planning a post-elopement celebration to help them feel involved, Dr. Sherman added. However, newlyweds shouldn’t feel pressured by family to hold any additional events if they’re not interested, Ms. Post said: “You can politely decline and say we felt really celebrated and we feel really happy with what we’ve done. We’ll be thrilled to see people at the holidays as a married couple.”

Of course, couples don’t need to host another party to share the news of their elopement. To give loved ones a sense of the day, Anne White, a sales manager at Simply Eloped, recommends creating photo books for family members. Couples can screen their wedding video for family, too.

Regardless of how couples choose to share the news, it’s essential the reveal feels true to their relationship.

“It is your marriage, it is your wedding, and this is what you chose,” Ms. Post said. “So to have confidence in that is really important.”

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